Governor’s Leandro Commission Calls for Expansion to Early Intervention Eligibility

The Governor’s Commission for a Sound, Basic Education and the WestEd consultant report proposed many recommendations from the Pathways Action Framework. This EdNC article by Liz Bell highlights one item recommended by the Governor’s Commission that would ensure more NC young children who are facing barriers to success have access to needed early intervention services.

Expanding Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C Eligibility to Include At-Risk Children

As the article explains, the IDEA Part C program provides early intervention services to young children who have developmental delays or established medical conditions. The goal is the provide very young children and their families with needed services so that they have the best chance of excelling when they start kindergarten and beyond. 

The Governor’s Leandro Commission has recommended one of the actions in the Pathways Action Framework — to expand eligibility for the program to children who are at risk of delays or conditions. Identifying children who are at risk of delays and providing them with services early on ensures that more young children who would eventually struggle in school receive the preventive and treatment services needed to be prepared to succeed. Often, young children don’t show enough behavioral issues or symptoms to receive an official diagnosis of a developmental delay, but the current brain science makes it clear that children facing trauma and toxic stress are more likely than their peers to develop delays and medical conditions later on. Catching these vulnerable children and families early gives them the best chance for success. There’s also a fiscal implication for the state, as Sharon Loza, Early Intervention Branch Head, explains in the EdNC article:

“The earlier we identify children and serve them, the better their outcomes are, and not only for the child and family themselves, but there’s also research to suggest that there are fiscal gains — that children will no longer need as many special education services, that they actually have less delays by getting the earlier intervention.” 

North Carolina does not currently include an at-risk determination in its IDEA Part C eligibility guidelines. As of 2018 when NCECF looked into the issue, five states had adopted IDEA Part C eligibility criteria that include at-risk circumstances: Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia.[i] Examples of risks that could qualify a child for early intervention services in these states include:

  • Parents’ age or education level
  • Parents’ chronic illness or disability affecting their caregiving ability
  • Parents lack of social supports
  • Inadequate food, clothing, or shelter, including homelessness
  • Substance abuse or domestic violence in the home

Usually several of these risk factors are required to be present for the child to be eligible for services. 

For more information about how Early Intervention services — and identifying children at risk of developmental delays — impacts third grade reading outcomes, check out NCECF’s Early Intervention issue webpage. NCECF has developed webpages detailing how each of the Pathways Measures of Success impact third grade reading outcomes — check them out under “Issues” on the homepage.

For more information about what the Leandro court case will mean for early childhood, check out our Leandro page.

[i] The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, States’ and territories’ definitions. Retrieved February 2018 from